When your kid REALLY wants to go to school, but you are on break

Some children really thrive at school. These are the kids who get up and get dressed on Saturday and look disappointed when you tell them there is no school today. These are also often kids who like a lot of structure and predictability in their life; this can be especially true for children with autism. Or they excel at academic or fact-based learning like gifted students. Occasionally, these kids have a hard time being at home for more than a couple days and longer school breaks can come to be difficult (or even dreaded) for them and their parents.

So, with winter break on the horizon, what can you do as a parent (or even as a teen who loves school) to manage the time at home? The first step is to figure out what part of school is so great for the kid or teen. Is it the set schedule that is predictable and basically unchanged day to day, do they love riding the bus, do they miss their friends who don't live close by, or do they love academic learning? Once you have figured out the parts that really work for them you can try to put more of that into the home-based or camp/daycare experience for the days off.

If you are a working parent and the kids have more time off than you do, try to choose daycare or holiday camp experiences that include the important elements you identified. Some camps are more structured than others. Let your child know in advance what the plan is for them. Special experiences within an area of interest like Coding Camp, an intensive photography class, or LEGO/MineCraft Camp can ease the pain of all the time off and give your kid something to look forward to.

If you'll be home with your child, also think about what elements of school your kiddo needs and thrives on. Try to put more of that into your time at home. Even something like a visual schedule of leisure activities (wake up 8:30, breakfast 8:30 - 9:00, cartoons 9:00 - 10:00, etc.) can help organize and remind a child about things they can do. (Ideas for writing and building visual schedules can be found at this tutorial from Hands in Autism and their are lots of webpages with templates.) If they love academics, ask the teacher for some extra work or a special side project they can tackle over the break. Ride the bus somewhere for errands rather than driving if your child really gets a kick out of public transit (trains/subways can be even more exciting). Plan a trip to a museum or public place like the aquarium, a historic site, or factory tour that ties into your child's interests and hobbies.

If you child misses the social contact they have with friends, then you can help them arrange for get togethers. If they are older than about 10, be prepared for all the logistics to take place by text and remind them they have to include you on the texts or keep you informed about what is being planned.

Structuring your home life so it runs like the clockwork of a typical school day can become exhausting for parents. Just remember that more structure is better than not adding any. Better is always better than nothing, even when it's not perfect.

Todd Koser